Unfortunately, the peaches and plums that are now available have been shipped from Central or South America. Transportation gives these fruits a large environmental footprint and a high price. Although they may look enticing, these fruits were harvested green and have little flavor. The most delicious and the most environmentally friendly fruits come from our own gardens.
Summer is the most delicious season in the edible landscape. Peaches, nectarines, and plums entice the gardener outdoors to savor perfectly ripe fruits, harvested straight from the tree. Fruits such as these cannot be found on any grocer’s shelf. A perfectly ripened peach or plum is too ephemeral to transport.
Peach trees can be gorgeous landscape specimens. Red Baron peach is clothed with deep red blossoms for weeks. Double Jewell’s double pink blossoms rival Red Baron. Both trees produce sublime fruit in summer. Weeping Santa Rosa plum is a striking ornamental edible. About 10 feet tall, the branches sweep to the ground. The fruit are identical to the familiar Santa Rosa Plum. My favorite plum is Golden Nectar, a large amber plum that explodes with juicy sweetness.
Recently developed inter-specific hybrid fruits are available to home orchardists. Pluots (plum-apricot crosses) are more like plums, but they do not have the characteristic tart skin. Each year, new hybrids bring tantalizing variations on the theme of blended fruits. I added Spice-Zee Necta-plum to my garden last year. Its deep purple leaves are the perfect foil for bright pink blossoms.
Peach trees appreciate morning sun, and they will not tolerate wet feet. Keep them out of the lawn. Plum trees are more forgiving than peaches. Plums will tolerate wet roots, and they do not require as much morning sun. Save the best garden area for peach trees, and relegate plums and pluots to a secondary area.
Gardeners in the San Francisco Bay Area can to sample many varieties of summer fruits at Andy’s Orchard in Morgan Hill. Andy Mariani maintains one of the largest collections of stone fruit on the west coast. Throughout the season, Andy hosts fruit tasting events showcasing hundreds of varieites. These events are the best opportunity to experience the diversity of fruits that can be grown here in the Valley of the Heart’s Delight.
Photo from Flikr Common License.